Do You Possess the Management Trait Employees Value Most?

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Are you stress­ing out because you’re not com­ing across as a warm and car­ing leader? Many man­age­ment stud­ies these days have us believ­ing that employ­ees will bee­line for the exit if the boss for­gets to ask how their child or pup­py is doing. News flash. The lat­est research from Stan­ford Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness shows employ­ees have anoth­er pri­or­i­ty.

Competent versus Social

Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Jef­frey Pfef­fer and Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia pro­fes­sor Peter Bel­mi set up three stud­ies that inves­ti­gat­ed the atti­tudes of near­ly 1,000 employ­ees. The employ­ees were put into sit­u­a­tions that test­ed whether they pre­ferred boss­es and col­leagues who were com­pe­tent ver­sus those who were socia­ble.

In one study, 77% of employ­ees said they’d choose the high­ly com­pe­tent can­di­date to join an invest­ment bank­ing team. And, after peo­ple were told that the team’s com­pen­sa­tion would depend on team per­for­mance, the pref­er­ence for the high­ly com­pe­tent can­di­date rose to 83%.

The Financial Connection

In an Insights by Stan­ford Busi­ness col­umn, Edmund Andrews sum­ma­rizes the find­ings: “when mon­ey is on the line…most peo­ple would rather work for a very com­pe­tent jerk than a nice but less com­pe­tent boss.” The researchers point out that many of lead­ers seen as most suc­cess­ful in the U.S., such as Steve Jobs or Jack Welch, lacked the soft skills that we’ve been told are nec­es­sary to ensure employ­ee loy­al­ty and engage­ment.

When you’re prepar­ing to pro­mote an employ­ee to a man­age­ment role, con­sid­er com­pe­ten­cy. Employ­ees want to be on a win­ning team. They’re keen­ly aware of the impact a boss or col­league can have on their pay­checks. They’ll wor­ry that a man­ag­er who lacks com­pe­tence might impact the bot­tom line for them in a very per­son­al way.

Of course, you should con­tin­ue to work on your soft skills and those of your man­agers. Ignor­ing them “can under­mine a team’s per­for­mance in the long run.” And, if you for­get to ask an employ­ee about an impor­tant life event, because you’re busy nego­ti­at­ing a new part­ner­ship, remind your­self to do bet­ter next time.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice Pres­i­dent of Research for Sales­Fu­el. She holds a Mas­ters in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ver­mont and over­sees a staff of researchers, writ­ers and con­tent providers for Sales­Fu­el. Pre­vi­ous­ly, she was co-owner of sev­er­al small busi­ness­es in the health care ser­vices sec­tor.